How to Prepare Your Vacation Rental for Thanksgiving

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
November 13, 2017

Thanksgiving is upon us, which means the busy holiday season has officially begun.

Hosting guests over Thanksgiving weekend is a little different than hosting travelers at any other time of the year. They have higher expectations and additional needs. In addition to raising the bar to provide an exceptional stay, there are a few additional perks you can provide to guarantee a smooth holiday and grateful guests.

Here’s the step-by-step guide that will ensure your property is ready for Thanksgiving travelers.

1. Ask what your guests need

The easiest way to make sure you’re providing the stay your guests hoped for is to simply ask. Everyone has different traditions and different expectations, so rather than trying to guess what your guests need, reach out and ask them directly.

Send them an email that says something like:

“Hi, I noticed your stay is over Thanksgiving. Do you need anything special for the holiday? I have roasting tins, a full set of pots and pans, and a full spice cabinet, but if you have any other requests, we can try to provide them.”


“Hi, I noticed your stay is over Thanksgiving. Do you need anything special for the holiday? Our kitchen is fully equipped for regular day-to-day cooking, but at the moment I haven’t provided any additional tools especially for pie making or turkey roasting. Will you be cooking Thanksgiving dinner at the property? How can I help make sure you have everything you need?”

Even if you can’t provide every single item requested, you can show that you’re willing to go out and make an additional purchase just for their comfort. This is especially nice to offer if you can provide an item that would be awkward to bring in luggage, such as a roasting pan for the turkey.

Once you know what your guests need, go ahead and …

2. Stock the kitchen

Thanksgiving is a holiday that completely revolves around the kitchen, so yours should be stocked for a feast. Kitchens are one of the main reasons why people book vacation rentals over hotels – and this is especially true when they’re booking your home for a holiday that’s centered on food.

Go above and beyond with kitchen supplies. Guests will notice and be so appreciative of your hospitality.

If your guests requested anything specific when you reached out to them, like wine glasses or pie tins, we highly recommend that you indulge the request. You can pick these items up at Ikea or Target for affordable prices, and the money that you spend on supplies come back to you tenfold in the form of a rave review and future bookings!

The most important thing is that you have something your guests can use to cook an average-size turkey. Disposable tin roasting pans are easy and affordable, and it’s a thoughtful gift to provide your guests. Even if they don’t wind up needing it, they’ll be glad it was available!

Aside from that, your guests might also need:

  • A set of large pots and pans
  • Baking sheets and dishes
  • Whisks
  • Ladles
  • Spatulas
  • Sharp knives
  • Serving dishes (if you can spare them)
  • Turkey baster
  • Meat thermometer

Additionally, your guests would surely appreciate if you stocked the kitchen with some other pantry staples that are easy to forget at the supermarket, but are necessary to cook Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Flour
  • Spices
  • Cooking oil

It’s an extremely thoughtful gesture that guests will appreciate. No one likes to throw off their dinner preparation timeline because they forgot something as simple as butter!

3. Provide toiletries

There’s nothing quite as aggravating as opening your suitcase after a long day of travel and realizing that you’ve forgotten your toothpaste and shampoo. You go into the bathroom to see if – by chance – there’s some there, and you see that travel-sized tubes have been neatly set out by the sink.

You feel extremely grateful for the thoughtful gift from your host.

By stocking the basics: toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wipes, cotton balls, and cotton swabs, you’ll save your guests the stress of rushing out to pick up those essentials before stores close for the holiday.

You’re not required to provide toiletries for guests, but it’s one of those ‘extras’ that makes you stand out as a great host.

On holidays like Thanksgiving, these gestures are especially appreciated. Most stores close their doors early on major holidays, which makes it very hard to nip out and buy a tube of toothpaste at 10 pm. Make sure those little inconveniences simply aren’t an issue, and you’ll have your guests’ gratitude.

4. Suggest activities

After traveling as a family unit, packing together in a rental car, bunking up, and sharing bathrooms, your guests might be looking for an excuse to get out of the house and get a breath of fresh air. It’s always easier to get along with your family when you have something fun to do together, so help your guests out by providing some suggestions.

When you’re preparing your pre-stay email, gift basket, or welcome book, be sure to include information about:

  • Local events
  • Holiday activities
  • Sightseeing in the area

If you know where to go horseback riding, pumpkin picking, Black Friday shopping, or leaf peeping, then share that in your guest communication. Provide brochures if possible. Guests like to have the inside scoop about what to see and do.

Do you live in an area that doesn’t have a lot to do on the holidays? Provide some around-the-house games and activities.

If the weather is nice in your area, you might want to provide outdoor games like horseshoes, bean bag toss, or croquet. If you live in an area that usually gets snow in November, you might provide sleds for the adventurous and board games, DVDs, or reading materials for indoor entertainment.

And for the home cook in the family – they’ll be deeply grateful you got the rest of the household out from underfoot.

5. Anticipate and answer their questions

When guests book accommodations for the holidays, they tend to have a ton of questions. Make it easier for them by preparing answers before they even think to ask.

Include details that will help guests enjoy themselves in your house in your welcome book:

“We have a sports package that you can use to watch the Thanksgiving football games. Check channels 500 through 525 to find the game you want to watch”, or “We have a convection oven that takes about 10-minutes longer to heat up than typical ovens, so factor that into your cook time.”

Not sure what to include? Think about what you’d like to know if you were staying in a vacation rental over Thanksgiving. What questions would come up? What information would you like to have?

You can also invite travelers to get in touch with you if they have more questions. We recommend that homeowners reach out and build a personal connection with guests. You’re more likely to get a great review when they feel like they know you, and that you’ve personally helped them.

6. Plan for the worst-case scenario

You are hosting a family of 10, including young kids, teenagers, and grandma and grandpa. Their flight was delayed and they missed a connection. They arrive at your home several hours later than expected. They’re exhausted and irritable.

What happens if the lockbox code doesn’t work? Is your guest contact going to be there to let them in the house? Will someone even be available to answer their call?

Talk to your service partners and create a backup plan for the worst-case scenario – just in case disaster strikes.

  • Ask your cleaning company if they have anyone on-call
  • See if your guest contact is willing to take care of problems if they crop up
  • Find a 24/7 maintenance service that will show up if there’s a problem
  • See if a neighbor or relative would be willing to act as a backup emergency contact

You’ll want to have a plan in place for a failed cleaning, any trouble getting into the property, and unforeseen maintenance issues such as the refrigerator or stove failing. If your guest runs into any of those issues and no one is available to help, you can count on their vacation being ruined – and a negative review to boot.

7. Do a maintenance check

You don’t want guests to call you after they’ve checked in on the night before Thanksgiving to tell you that the refrigerator isn’t working and their bags full of perishable food are sitting on the counter, getting warm.

You can avoid this disaster completely by having your maintenance team or guest contact do a walk-through before the holiday. Ask them to triple-check the following:

  • Lights
  • Oven
  • Microwave
  • HVAC system
  • TV/Cable
  • Lockbox code

A pre-stay maintenance check gives you the opportunity to get ahead of any problems, make the necessary repairs, or communicate special instructions to avoid any problems while they’re in residence.

8. Protect yourself from Thanksgiving disaster

Cranberry sauce spilled on the white carpet. A broken oven knob. A shattered wine glass.

Kitchen accidents happen.

Even though Thanksgiving is a pretty tame holiday, it’s always a good idea to cover your bases with damage protection. This will come in handy if guests break the stove, spill wine on the carpet, or break a couple of nice wine glasses.

We recommend damage protection over traditional deposits because there are no paper checks to exchange and there are fewer disputes about how much things should cost. No one likes to finish out their holiday arguing with the owner of the property to get their cleaning deposit back.

You can avoid that issue entirely with damage protection. You’ll get any damages covered without argument, and your guests won’t ever have to think about it, since they paid to be covered up front.

9. Provide some thoughtful touches

One of the most gratifying parts of renting out your vacation home is getting to add those personal touches that really define the guest experience.

As we said before, a disposable roasting pan is likely to be met with appreciation. While you’re at it, why not fill up that roasting pan with a few thoughtful gifts for your guests? Snacks, sparkling cider, brightly-colored paper napkins, and a cheerful note wishing them a great holiday would all be welcome – and inexpensive – ways to greet your guests.

It’s really up to you and what you think guests would enjoy! Be creative and have some fun with this. It will set your home apart from all the other vacations rentals in your area.

10. Relax

Everyone gets stressed during the holidays – and that includes you! You’ve got a lot to do for your own celebrations, and worrying about your guests can feel like too much to handle. It’s small wonder we see the most avoidable conflicts during holidays.

We highly recommend checking out our post on conflict resolution, but as much as possible: relax.

Keep your phone on and respond as quickly as you can if guests reach out. Try to be kind if a problem arises. Speak in a friendly tone, and assure them that their holiday is important to you and that you’ll do everything you can to help.

If you’ve completed the preparations above, though, your guests are in great shape. You’ve done everything you can do to make their stay enjoyable, so try to enjoy your own holiday! You’ll be in a much better state of mind if you’re having some fun yourself.

You Have a Cornucopia of Things to Do

If you follow these steps, you’re on the right track.

But here’s a thought that hasn’t crossed the mind of every homeowner: do you really have to be the person on call during the holiday?

Maybe you have a responsible niece or nephew who would like to earn a little extra cash by answering questions by phone or text promptly. Maybe your house cleaner or maintenance person would be willing to be on call if you were willing to throw a little bonus their way.

It’s your holiday too, after all. Remember that you don’t have to do it alone. You have people who might well have a little more time on their hands to help you out – and that’ll give you one more thing to be thankful for when you sit down to enjoy your dinner.

Ready to stop stressing about whether your vacation rental is ready for holiday guests? Let us help you earn more income with less hassle.

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